While some kids are fanatical about keeping their bedrooms neat and clean, others couldn't care less. Maybe it’s a genetic thing or a learned behavior. As a parent, you probably struggle between trying to be patient while training your child to clean up after herself and just giving up and cleaning the room yourself.
Elementary school age children should be able to keep their bedrooms tidy, even if they share their room with a younger sibling. But as with other chores, they need to be trained and then reinforced in doing it the right way. Stuffing toys under the bed or jamming things into closets is not the right way to go about organizing a bedroom.
First, emphasize that keeping a room clean is important for everyone, and is an important learning step for kids at this age. Explain that a neat bedroom lets the owner find school clothes, homework assignments, or an escaped pet more readily than a room that is in disarray. Showing your child that this task serves his or her interests may underscore personal investment in seeing that it gets done.
Also explain that keeping a room in order is an early indicator of maturity. As your child grows and begins to assume increasing levels of responsibility, privileges like driving, staying out later with friends, and attending social events will become attractive lures. Parental approval for these activities can stem from observing a child's responsibility toward things like an organized bedroom. Let your child know that this is an important step toward proving himself or herself ready for additional responsibility.
Demonstrate how to clean a bedroom. Using your room as a model, outline each step of the process on a daily and then a weekly basis. Daily duties might include making the bed, opening window shades, picking up clothes, and putting away toys or belongings. Weekly duties may include dusting furniture, vacuuming or mopping the floor, and organizing books or games. Airing out the room by opening windows in good weather or washing toys that are dusty or stained are additional ways of cleaning the area and keeping it dust-free. Show your child where to find and how to use cleaning supplies, but keep toxic substances out of reach, opting for non-toxic or home-made cleaners instead.
Reward conscientious behavior. Verbal praise, a handwritten post-it note on the mirror, or a tangible reward like a an ice-cream can be powerful incentives for teaching young children to learn and practice a new behavior. You may also want to offer his or her choice of accent, such as a favorite film or cartoon poster or throw rug, as a complement to the child's effort.
When this task is successfully mastered, add another small duty, such as cleaning an adjoining bathroom. Gradually your child will come to value the importance and joy of a tidy living area all because you have taken time to impart the skill of keeping one's personal space clean and neat.
Written by Rose Halas - © 2002 Pagewise (essortment.com)